Jonathan Chait wrote a very good article yesterday, Republicans Confuse the Electoral College With “the American People.” For me, it highlights the fact that conservatives never change. In it, he talks about an article in The Federalist by Josiah Peterson, No, Jesse Jackson, the Electoral College Isn’t Racist. Forget for now the fact that Jackson never said that the electoral college was racist. Let’s just look at Peterson as a fine example of a conservative thinker.
In the article he claims that the Three-Fifths Clause of the US Constitution was intended to give Southern States less power. I’ve heard this argument from conservatives many times in the past. But it turns reality upside down.
The truth is that slave owners treated slaves as property. They weren’t some kind of special property that had rights. They were literally seen the same way that an ox or a cart were seen. So the idea of giving southern states political representation for slaves is the same as giving them political representation for the number of horses they had. These states wanted slaves to be property when it suited them and not property when it suited them.
The slave states insisted upon the Three-Fifths Clause in order to allow the Constitution to be ratified. But there was never any justification for it other than conservatives whining and wanting special rules for themselves.
Special Rules for Conservatives After the Civil War
You may remember that towards the end of the Civil War, when it was clear they had lost the war, the South wanted to give up. But they wanted to be able to keep their slaves. In other words, they wanted the right to wage a civil war so that they could have their own country free to treat human beings as slaves. And then when they failed at that, they wanted things to go back to exactly the way that they were — to pretend that they hadn’t started a war. (Note: they pretty much got that anyway with the help of President Andrew Johnson and other like-minded racists.)
This is entirely typical of conservatives today. They want special rules. It’s interesting to look at the electoral college system. Because conservatives used to be against it. But now that they have won two presidential elections where they lost the popular vote, they think that it is absolutely essential that we keep it.
Conservatives Want It All
I’ve often noted that conservatives only care about power. This is why they destroy norms any time things do not go the way they want them to. If they are legally allowed to do something, they will do it. (Note that this is the way that corporations deal with taxes. If the tax code allows them to write off $500 for something, they will always write off $500 for it. An individual will generally write off quite a bit less. That’s because individuals have some sense of shame — at least the non-psychotic ones do.)
This belief in power only really comes down to this idea that there are special rules for them. They have no sense of community. Think of Margaret Thatcher and her idea that society didn’t actually exist. All that matters is them and their desires. And if the society has to be destroyed because of that, so be it.
We saw this when conservatives owned people, and we see it today. And if there were suddenly a repeal of the 13th Amendment, conservatives would have no problem owning people today.